The McAfee Institute proposed dividing OSIF into four distinct categories. These categories were picked because they provide some consistency in the requirements to collect, process, and exploit the information gathered. The first distinction is determined by the generator of the content and whether it is institutionally generated content or individually generated content.
- Institutionally generated content consists of news media and other institutional content, much of which may have been previously defined as gray literature.
- Individually driven content, or social media content, is divided between long-form and short-form, which have important differences for processing and usage.
News Media Content
The content of news media is self-identified and publicly recognized as journalism. Its sources are multimedium—newspapers, journals (both print and online), television, and radio. News media also include news aggregator sites, which may or may not publish original content. News media content includes state-produced content when specifically distributed by a media outlet.
Gray literature is content that comes from non-media institutions and organizations, both public and private. It includes material from research establishments, national governments, private publishers, corporations, trade associations, and unions, think tanks, and academia. An underlying assumption is that most institutional content does not exist only in the virtual space, but that there is generally some brick-and-mortar presence and institutional cohesion. Despite efforts initiated decades ago to better organize the acquisition, long-term storage, and distribution of gray literature, it is still often collected and used in an ad hoc manner.
Long-Form Social Media Content
Long-form user content from an individual perspective is material that is very text-heavy from a single individual or perhaps even small groups of people. This might include materials from sites like Quora and Reddit, or blogs like Blogger or Tumblr. However, much of the social media content analysis that is focused on today is that of short-form content, leaving long-form content often underused.
Short-Form Social Media Content
Short-form user content from an individual perspective is material from platforms such as Linkedin, Facebook, or Twitter. In contrast to long-form content, short-form user-generated content generally has little intelligence value. An exception exists, however, when short-form social media content is obtained from specific accounts of high interest, for example, accounts of famous individuals such as senior government figures, thought leaders, and prominent journalists. High-value short-form content could also include accounts from individuals who are part of a group being targeted by the IC, such as a special military unit or a militant group.